Now Let's be Fair, the USA Ain't East Germany!
by Jerre Skog
Noticing that some eminent and informed writers have likened USA with the old East Germany because of the Patriot Act and the new Terrorist Information & Prevention System, TIPS, where an awful lot of people are encouraged to inform on their fellow citizens, I have to disagree and ask these writers to be more fair in their comments. After all we should be sure not to draw any comparisons to greater lengths than they merit and when mentioning the similarities one should not forget to mention important dissimilarities too.
I agree that superficially some similarities exist. Having a large, but anonymous, part of the population spying and informing on their countrymen, was standard for East Germany where a STASI informer could be anybody in the neighborhood. The vast powers, number and secrecy of various "state security agencies" is also reminiscent of that country as is the paranoia, in DDR's case perhaps more well-founded, behind their creation.
With the resources of FBI, CIA, NSA, Office of Homeland Security, the obedient and giant armed forces, various other more or less secret organizations, the informer networks and the extent of their powers, the potential for oppression in USA is probably greater than in any other country on earth. Given a president who has something close to emergency powers and all the new laws limiting individual freedom and integrity, the framework of the police state is securely in place and TIPS is the step that crosses the border between reasonable control and security and the birth of the fascist state. Both USA and East Germany can safely be labeled police states after the latest developments. One can perhaps note that the East German leaders never had the nearly unlimited resources at the Bush administration's command.
But, in all fairness, when comparing two nations, we have also to look at the dissimilarities in order to get a true picture of the states, and in my view, with very good information on life in former East Germany, there are fundamental differences that ought to be considered more important than the similarities.
Let's take a good look at the contrasts:
First, naturally, East Germany had the Berlin Wall to keep people on the inside. USA doesn't have a wall stopping its citizens from escaping the country. Anyone is free to leave. Lack of monetary means to do so and the difficulties, on a vastly bigger scale than those confronting an escapee from East Germany, to start a new life elsewhere, is probably less limiting than the Wall was.
We can also note that unlike USA, East Germany has never invaded other countries or even bombed them and never had a military with a might even close to USA's. Leaders Ulbricht and Hoeneker, because of Soviet's supremacy, were not free to pursue their own policies and could never on their own effect more than marginal changes to the system. Completely different from the situation in US.
The East German media was censored and unable to critizise the leadership, while American media is free and freely abstains from critizising the leadership. The East German population was well aware of the shortcomings of their state in spite of above media situation. Most Americans still believe they live in the greatest and most decent democracy, thanks to the media situation.
And, unlike US:
East Germany had a well functioning and free health care system, health insurance and a pension system that included everyone.
East Germany had free education on every level including university, and the population was, in general, well aware and informed.
East Germany had jobs and housing for all and though luxury food was scarce and expensive, the basic needs were cheap and in abundance. Bread was so cheap that many bought the feed for the pigs and hens at the bakery.
The social fabric between the citizens in East Germany was good because the differences in income was held at reasonable levels.
The crime level was low and violence crimes unusual by international standard.
The luxury mansions were few and far between.
Pro Wrestling was unheard of.
The only important similarity between US and former East Germany is the police state apparatus, but it must be pointed out that the East German one was probably more efficient in security/buck ratio, perhaps thanks to a lot of "help" from USSR and the fact that East Germany had a lot of nukes on American bases in Europe aimed at it as well as a lot of western propaganda.
Let's be fair and give USA a few more years to get things into full swing!
Support your local spooks! Turn yourself in for better security!
Jere Skog is a Swedish writer, musician, alternative observer, and “a nice fellow with only slightly unorthodox ideas!” currently living in Germany. Skog’s political and satirical work can be found at his website: www.skog.de